Sardinish Tung or Sard (sardu/sadru [ˈsaɾdu/ˈsadru], limba sarda [ˈlimba ˈzaɾda] or lìngua sarda [ˈliŋɡu.a ˈzaɾda]) is a Romance language spoken by the Sardinians on most of the island of Sardinia. Many Romance linguists consider it the closest genealogical descendant to Latin.[11][12] However, it also incorporates a Pre-Latin (mostly Paleo-Sardinian and, to a much lesser degree, Punic) substratum,[13] as well as a Byzantine Greek, Catalan, Spanish and Italian superstratum due to the political history of the island, which became a Byzantine possession followed by a significant period of self-rule, fell into the Iberian sphere of influence in the late Middle Ages, and eventually into the Italian one in the 18th century.

In 1997, Sardinian was recognized by a regional law,[2] along with other languages spoken on the island; in 1999, Sardinian was also granted recognition by the national Law no. 482/1999 with other eleven minoranze linguistiche storiche ("historical linguistic minorities"),[14] among which Sardinian stands out as the numerically biggest,[15][16][17][18] even if continuously decreasing.[19]

However, the vitality of the Sardinian-speaking community is threatened, and UNESCO classifies the language as "definitely endangered",[20] although an estimated 68.4 percent of the islanders reported to have a good oral command of Sardinian in 2007.[21] While the level of language competence is in fact relatively high among the older generation beyond retirement age, it has been estimated to have dropped to less than 13 percent among children,[22][23] with Sardinian being kept as a heritage language.[24][25]

Overview[edit] Edit

Sardinian is considered the most conservative Romance language,[26][27] and its substratum (Paleo-Sardinian or Nuragic) has also been researched. A 1949 study by the Italian-American linguist Mario Pei, analyzing the degree of difference from a language's parent (Latin, in the case of Romance languages) by comparing phonology, inflection, syntax, vocabulary, and intonation, indicated the following percentages (the higher the percentage, the greater the distance from Latin):[28] Sardinian 8%, Italian 12%, Spanish 20%, Romanian 23.5%, Occitan 25%, Portuguese 31%, and French 44%. For example, Latin "Pone mihi tres panes in bertula" (put three loaves of bread [from home] in the bag for me) would be the very similar "Ponemi tres panes in bertula" in Sardinian.[29]

Chart of Romance languages based on structural and comparative criteria (not on socio-functional ones). Koryakov (2001) ascribes Sardinian to the separated Island Romance branch of the Romance languages, along with old Corsican (modern Corsican is in fact part of the broad Italo-Romance family).[30]

Compared to the mainland Italian dialects, Sardinian is virtually incomprehensible for Italians,[31] and is in fact considered a distinct linguistic group among the Romance languages.[32][33][34]

History[edit] Edit

See also: History of Sardinia

Sardinia's relative isolation from mainland Europe encouraged the development of a Romance language that preserves traces of its indigenous, pre-Roman language(s). The language is posited to have substratal influences from Paleo-Sardinian, which some scholars have linked to Basque[35][36] and Etruscan.[37] Adstratal influences include Catalan, Spanish, and Italian. The situation of Sardinian language with regard to the politically dominant ones did not change until fascism[38] and, most evidently, the 1950s.[39][40]

Origins of modern Sardinian[edit] Edit

Prenuragic and Nuragic era

See also: Paleo-Sardinian language and Nuragic civilization

The origins of ancient Sardinian, also known as Paleo-Sardinian, are currently unknown. Research has attempted to discover obscure, indigenous, pre-Romance roots. The root s(a)rd, indicating many place names as well as the island's people, is reportedly either associated with or originating from the Sherden, one of the Sea Peoples.[41] Other sources trace instead the root s(a)rd from Σαρδώ, a legendary woman from the Anatolian Kingdom of Lydia,[42][43] or from the Libyan mythological figure of the Sardus Pater Babai ("Sardinian Father" or "Father of the Sardinians").[44][45][46][47][48][49][50]

In 1984, Massimo Pittau claimed to have found the etymology of many Latin words in the Etruscan language, after comparing it with the Nuragic language(s).[37] Etruscan elements, formerly thought to have originated in Latin, would indicate a connection between the ancient Sardinian culture and the Etruscans. According to Pittau, the Etruscan and Nuragic language(s) are descended from Lydian (and therefore Indo-European) as a consequence of contact with Etruscans and other Tyrrhenians from Sardis as described by Herodotus.[37] Although Pittau suggests that the Tirrenii landed in Sardinia and the Etruscans landed in modern Tuscany, his views are not shared by most Etruscologists.

According to Bertoldi and Terracini, Paleo-Sardinian has similarities with the Iberic languages and Siculian; for example, the suffix -ara in proparoxytones indicated the plural. Terracini proposed the same for suffixes in -/àna/, -/ànna/, -/énna/, -/ònna/ + /r/ + a paragogic vowel (such as the toponym Bunnànnaru). Rohlfs, Butler and Craddock add the suffix -/ini/ (such as the toponym Barùmini) as a unique element of Paleo-Sardinian. Suffixes in /aeou/ + -rr- found a correspondence in north Africa (Terracini), in Iberia (Blasco Ferrer) and in southern Italy and Gascony (Rohlfs), with a closer relationship to Basque (Wagner and Hubschmid). However, these early links to a Basque precursor have been questioned by some Basque linguists.[51] According to Terracini, suffixes in -/ài/, -/éi/, -/òi/, and -/ùi/ are common to Paleo-Sardinian and northern African languages. Pittau emphasized that this concerns terms originally ending in an accented vowel, with an attached paragogic vowel; the suffix resisted Latinization in some place names, which show a Latin body and a Nuragic suffix. According to Bertoldi, some toponyms ending in -/ài/ and -/asài/ indicated an Anatolian influence. The suffix -/aiko/, widely used in Iberia and possibly of Celtic origin, and the ethnic suffix in -/itanos/ and -/etanos/ (for example, the Sardinian Sulcitanos) have also been noted as Paleo-Sardinian elements (Terracini, Ribezzo, Wagner, Hubschmid and Faust).

Linguists Blasco Ferrer (2009, 2010) and Arregi (2017[52]) have attempted to revive a theoretical connection with Basque by linking words such as Sardinian ospile "fresh grazing for cattle" and Basque ozpil; Sardinian arrotzeri "vagabond" and Basque arrotz "stranger"; Sardinian golostiu and Basque gorosti “holly”; Gallurese (Corso-Sardinian) zerru “pig” (with z for [dz]) and Basque zerri (with z for [s]). Genetic data have found the Basques to be close to the Sardinians.[53][54][55]

Since the Neolithic period, some degree of variance across the island's regions is also attested. The Arzachena culture, for instance, suggests a link between the northernmost Sardinian region (Gallura) and southern Corsica that finds further confirmation in the Naturalis Historia by Pliny the Elder. There are also some stylistic differences across Northern and Southern Nuragic Sardinia, which may indicate the existence of two other tribal groups (Balares and Ilienses) mentioned by the same Roman author. According to the archeologist Giovanni Ugas,[56] these tribes may have in fact played a role in shaping the current regional linguistic differences of the island.

Classical period

See also: Corsica and Sardinia

Around the 10th and 9th century BC, Phoenician merchants were known to have made their presence in Sardinia, which acted as a geographical mediator in between the Iberian and the Italian peninsula. In the eighth and seventh centuries, the Phoenicians began to develop permanent settlements, politically arranged as city-states in similar fashion to the Lebanese coastal areas. It did not take long before they started gravitating around the Carthaginian sphere of influence, whose level of prosperity spurred Carthage to send a series of expeditionary forces to the island; although they were initially repelled by the natives, the North African city vigorously pursued a policy of active imperialism and, by the sixth century, managed to establish its political hegemony and military control over South-Western Sardinia. Punic began to be spoken in the area, and many words entered ancient Sardinian as well. Names like giara "plateau" (cf. hebrew "forest, scrub"), g(r)uspinu "nasturtium" (from the Punic cusmin), curma "fringed rue" (cf. ḥarmal "Syrian rue"), mítza "source" (cf. hebrew mitsametza "place whence something emerges"), síntziri "marsh horsetail" (from the Punic zunzur "common knotgrass"), tzeúrra "sprout" (from the Punic zeraʿ "seed"), tzichirìa "dill" (from the Punic sikkíria; cf. hebrew šēkār "ale") and tzípiri "rosemary" (from the Punic zibbir) are commonly used, especially in the modern Sardinian varieties of the Campidanese plain, while proceeding northwards the influence is more limited to place names, like Macumadas in the Province of Nuoro or Magumadas in Gesico and Nureci, which derive from the Punic maqom hadash "new city".[57][58]

The Roman domination began in 238 b.c. and brought Latin to Sardinia, but was often contested by the local Sardinian tribes and proved unable to completely supplant the pre-Latin Sardinian languages, including Punic, which continued to be spoken in the a.d. 4th century as attested by votive inscriptions.[59] Some obscure Nuragic roots remained unchanged, and in many cases Latin accepted the local roots (like nur, presumably from Norax, which makes its appearance in nuraghe, NurraNurri and many other toponyms). Barbagia, the mountainous central region of the island, derives its name from the Latin Barbaria (a term meaning "Land of the Barbarians", similar in origin to the word Barbary), because its people refused cultural and linguistic assimilation for a long time: 50% of toponyms of central Sardinia, particularly in the territory of Olzai, are actually not related to any known language.[60] Besides the place names, on the island there are still a few names of plants, animals and geological formations directly traceable to the ancient Nuragic era.[61] Cicero called the Sardinian rebels latrones mastrucati ("thieves with rough wool cloaks") to emphasize Roman superiority.[62]

During the long Roman domination Latin gradually become however the speech of the majority of the island's inhabitants.[63] As a result of this process of Romanization, the modern Sardinian language is today classified as Romance or neo-Latin, with some phonetic features resembling Old Latin. Some linguists assert that modern Sardinian, being part of the Island Romance group,[30] was the first language to split off from Latin,[64] all others evolving from Latin as Continental Romance.

At that time, the only literature being produced in Sardinia was mostly in Latin: the native (Paleo-Sardinian) and non-native (Punic) pre-Roman languages were then already extinct (the last Punic inscription in Bithia, southern Sardinia, is from the second or third century A.D.[65]). Some engraved poems in ancient Greek and Latin (the two most prestigious languages in the Roman Empire[66]) are to be seen in Viper Cave, Cagliari, (Grutta 'e sa Pibera in Sardinian, Grotta della Vipera in Italian, Cripta Serpentum in Latin), a burial monument built by Lucius Cassius Philippus (a Roman who had been exiled to Sardinia) in remembrance of his dead spouse Atilia Pomptilla. We also have some religious works by Saint Lucifer and Eusebius, both from Caralis (Cagliari).

Although Sardinia was culturally influenced and politically ruled by the Byzantine Empire for almost five centuries, Greek did not enter the language except for some ritual or formal expressions in Sardinian using Greek structure and, sometimes, the Greek alphabet.[67][68] Evidence for this is found in the condaghes, the first written documents in Sardinian. From the long Byzantine era there are only a few entries but they already provide a glimpse of the sociolinguistical situation on the island in which, in addition to the community's everyday Neo-Latin language, Greek was also spoken by the ruling classes.[69] Some toponyms, such as Jerzu (thought to derive from the Greek khérsos, "untilled"), together with the personal names Mikhaleis, Konstantine and Basilis, demonstrate Greek influence.[69]

The condaghe of Saint Peter of Silki (1065-1180), written in Sardinian.

As the Muslims conquered southern Italy and Sicily, communications broke down between Constantinople and Sardinia, whose districts became progressively more autonomous from the Byzantine oecumene (Greek: οἰκουμένη). Sardinia was then brought back into the Latin cultural sphere.

Judicates period[edit] Edit

See also: Sardinian medieval kingdoms

The first page of the Arborean Carta de Logu

Sardinian was the first Romance language of all to gain official status, being used by the four Judicates,[70][71][72][73][note 3] former Byzantine districts that became independent political entities after the Arab expansion in the Mediterranean cut off any ties left between the island and Byzantium. One of the oldest documents left in Sardinian (the so-called Carta Volgare) comes from the Judicate of Cagliari and was issued by Torchitorio I de Lacon-Gunale in around 1070, employing the Greek alphabet.[74] Old Sardinian had a greater number of archaisms and Latinisms than the present language does. While the earlier documents show the existence of an early Sardinian Koine,[75][76] the language used by the various Judicates already displayed a certain range of dialectal variation.[40][19] A special position was occupied by the Judicate of Arborea, the last Sardinian kingdom to fall to foreign powers, in which a transitional dialect was spoken, that of Middle Sardinian. The Carta de Logu of the Kingdom of Arborea, one of the first constitutions in history drawn up in 1355–1376 by Marianus IV and the Queen, the "Lady Judge" (judikessa in Sardinian, jutgessa in Catalan, giudicessa in Italian) Eleanor, was written in this transitional variety of Sardinian, and remained in force until 1827.[77][78] It is presumed the Arborean judges attempted to unify the Sardinian dialects in order to be legitimate rulers of the entire island under a single state (republica sardisca "Sardinian Republic"); [79] such political goal, after all, was already manifest in 1164, when the Arborean Judge Barison ordered his great seal to be made with the writings "Baresonus Dei Gratia Rei Sardiniee ("Barison, by the grace of God, King of Sardinia") and Est vis Sardorum pariter regnum Populorum ("The people's rule is equal to the Sardinians' own force").[80]

Extract from the Logudorese Privilege (1080)
« In nomine Domini amen. Ego iudice Mariano de Lacon fazo ista carta ad onore de omnes homines de Pisas pro xu toloneu ci mi pecterunt: e ego donolislu pro ca lis so ego amicu caru e itsos a mimi; ci nullu imperatore ci lu aet potestare istu locu de non (n)apat comiatu de leuarelis toloneu in placitu: de non occidere pisanu ingratis: e ccausa ipsoro ci lis aem leuare ingratis, de facerlis iustitia inperatore ci nce aet exere intu locu [...] »

Dante Alighieri wrote in his 1302–05 essay De vulgari eloquentia that Sardinians, not being Italians (Latii) and having no lingua vulgaris of their own, resorted to aping Latin instead.[31][81][82][83][84][85] Dante's view has been dismissed, as Sardinian had been following its own course in a way which was already unintelligible to non-islanders. In the popular 12th-century verse from Raimbaut de Vaqueiras' poem Domna, tant vos ai preiada, Sardinian epitomizes outlandish speech along with German and Berber, having the troubadour's wife say No t'entend plui d'un Todesco / Sardesco o Barbarì ("I don't understand you any more than [I could] a German / Sard or Berber");[86][87][88][85][89] the Tuscan poet Fazio degli Uberti refers to the Sardinians in his poem Dittamondo as una gente che niuno non la intende / né essi sanno quel ch'altri pispiglia ("a people that no one is able to understand / nor do they come to a knowledge of what other peoples say").[90][84][85] The Muslim geographer Muhammad al-Idrisi, who lived in Palermo, Sicily at the court of King Roger II, wrote in his work Kitab Nuzhat al-mushtāq fi'khtirāq al-āfāq ("The book of pleasant journeys into faraway lands" or, simply, "The book of Roger") that "Sardinia is large, mountainous, poorly provided with water, two hundred and eighty miles long and one hundred and eighty long from west to east. [...] Sardinians are ethnically Rūm Afāriqah, like the Berbers; they shun contacts with all the other Rūm nations and are people of purpose and valiant that never leave the arms".[91][92]

Sardinian-language statutes of Sassari from the 13th–14th centuries

The literature of this period primarily consists of legal documents, besides the aforementioned Carta de Logu. The first document containing Sardinian elements is a 1063 donation to the abbey of Montecassino signed by Barisone I of Torres.[93] Other documents are the Carta Volgare (1070–1080) in Campidanese, the 1080 Logudorese Privilege,[note 4] the 1089 Donation of Torchitorio (in the Marseille archives),[note 5] the 1190–1206 Marsellaise Chart (in Campidanese)[note 6] and an 1173 communication between the Bishop Bernardo of Civita and Benedetto, who oversaw the Opera del Duomo in Pisa.[note 7] The Statutes of Sassari (1316) and Castelgenovese (c. 1334) are written in Logudorese.[note 8]

The first chronicle in lingua sive ydiomate sardo,[94] called Condagues de Sardina, was published anonymously in the XIII century, relating the events of the Judicate of Torres.

Iberian period – Catalan and Spanish influence[edit] Edit

See also: Kingdom of Sardinia in the Crown of Aragon and in the Spanish Empire

The 1297 feoffment of Sardinia by Pope Boniface VIII led to the creation of the Aragonese Kingdom of Sardinia and a long period of war between the Aragonese and Sardinians, ending with a Aragonese victory at Sanluri in 1409 and the renunciation of any succession right signed by William III of Narbonne in 1420.[95] During this period the clergy adopted Catalan as their primary language, relegating Sardinian to a secondary but nonetheless relevant status with regards to the official acts and the Realm's law (the Carta de Logu was extended to most of the island in 1421 by the Parliament). Agreeing with Fara's De rebus Sardois,[96] the Sardinian attorney Sigismondo Arquer, author of Sardiniae brevis historia et descriptio in Sebastian Münster's Cosmographia Universalis (whose report would also be quoted in Conrad Gessner's "On the different languages used by the various nations across the globe" with minor variations[97]), stated that Sardinian prevailed in most of the Kingdom, with particular regard for the rural interior, and Catalan and Spanish were spoken in the cities, where the ruling class eventually became plurilingual in both the native and the Iberian languages;[98] Alghero is still a Catalan-speaking enclave on Sardinia to this day.[99]

The long-lasting war and the so-called Black Death had a devastating effect on the island, depopulating large parts of it. People from the neighbouring island of Corsica began to settle in the northern Sardinian coast, leading to the birth of the Tuscan-sounding Sassarese and Gallurese.[100][101]

Extract from sa Vitta et sa Morte, et Passione de sanctu Gavinu, Prothu et Januariu (A. Cano, ~1400)[102]


Deus eternu, sempre omnipotente, In s’aiudu meu ti piacat attender, Et dami gratia de poder acabare Su sanctu martiriu, in rima vulgare, 5. De sos sanctos martires tantu gloriosos Et cavaleris de Cristus victoriosos, Sanctu Gavinu, Prothu e Januariu, Contra su demoniu, nostru adversariu, Fortes defensores et bonos advocados, 10. Qui in su Paradisu sunt glorificados De sa corona de sanctu martiriu. Cussos sempre siant in nostru adiutoriu. Amen.

Despite Catalan being widely spoken and written on the island at this time (leaving a lasting influence in Sardinian), there are some written records of Sardinian, which was estimated to be the ordinary language of the Sardinians by the Jesuits in 1561.[103] One is the 15th-century Sa Vitta et sa Morte, et Passione de sanctu Gavinu, Brothu et Ianuariu, written by Antòni Canu (1400–1476) and published in 1557.[102]

The 16th century is instead marked by a new Sardinian literary revival: Rimas Spirituales, by Hieronimu Araolla,[104] was aimed at "glorifying and enriching Sardinian, our language" (magnificare et arrichire sa limba nostra sarda) as Spanish, French and Italian poets had already done for their languages (la Deffense et illustration de la langue françoyse and il Dialogo delle lingue).[39][note 9] Antonio Lo Frasso, a poet born in Alghero[105] (a city he remembered fondly)[note 10] who spent his life in Barcelona, wrote lyric poetry in Sardinian:[106]  ... Non podende sufrire su tormentu / de su fogu ardente innamorosu. / Videndemi foras de sentimentu / et sensa una hora de riposu, / pensende istare liberu e contentu / m'agato pius aflitu e congoixosu, / in essermi de te senora apartadu, / mudende ateru quelu, ateru istadu ....

Through the marriage of Isabella I of Castile and Ferdinand II of Aragon in 1469 and, later in 1624, the reorganization of the monarchy led by the Count-Duke of Olivares, Sardinia would progressively join a broad Spanish cultural sphere and leave the exclusive Aragonese one. Spanish was perceived as an elitist language, gaining solid ground among the ruling Sardinian class; Spanish had thus a profound influence on Sardinian, especially in those words, styles and cultural models owing to the prestigious international role of the Habsburg Monarchy as well as the Court.[note 11][104] Most Sardinian authors would write in both Spanish and Sardinian until the 19th century and were well-versed in the former, like Vicente Bacallar y Sanna that was one of the founders of the Real Academia Española.[107] A notable exception was Pedro Delitala (1550–1590), who decided to write in Italian instead.[105][108] Nonetheless, the Sardinian language retained much of its importance, earning respect from the Spaniards in light of it being the ethnic code the people from most of the Kingdom kept using, especially in the interior.[109][note 12]

Sardinian was also one of the few official languages, along with Spanish, Catalan and Portuguese, whose knowledge was required to be an officer in the Spanish tercios.[110]

A 1620 proclamation is in the Bosa archives.[note 13]

Ioan Matheu Garipa, a priest from Orgosolo who translated the Italian Leggendario delle Sante Vergini e Martiri di Gesù Cristo into Sardinian (Legendariu de Santas Virgines, et Martires de Iesu Christu) in 1627, was the first author to call Sardinian the closest living relative of classical Latin[111] and, like Araolla before him, valued Sardinian as the language of a specific ethno-national community.[112]

Some gravestones in the cemetery of Ploaghe. The first gravestone has writings in Sardinian, the other two in Italian.

Savoyard period – Italian influence[edit] Edit

See also: Kingdom of Sardinia under the House of Savoy and Kingdom of Italy

The War of the Spanish Succession gave Sardinia to Austria, whose sovereignty was confirmed by the 1713–14 treaties of Utrecht and Rastatt. In 1717 a Spanish fleet reoccupied Cagliari, and the following year Sardinia was ceded to Victor Amadeus II of Savoy in exchange for Sicily. This transfer would not initially entail any social nor linguistic changes, though: Sardinia would still retain for a long time its Iberian character, so much so that only in 1767 were the Aragonese and Spanish dynastic symbols replaced by the Savoyard cross.[113] This stance was rooted in three political reasons: in the first place, the Savoyards felt like they did not want to rouse international suspicion and followed to the letter the rules dictated by the Treaty of London, signed on the second of August 1718, whereby they committed themselves to respect the fundamental laws of the newly acquired Kingdom; in the second, they did not want to antagonize the hispanophile locals, especially the elites; in the third, they lingered on hoping they could manage to dispose of the island while still keeping the title of Kings by regaining Sicily.[114] Such prudence was noted, when the King himself claimed that he was intentioned to ban neither Sardinian nor Spanish on two separate occasions, in 1726 and 1728.[115] The fact that the new masters of Sardinia felt at loss as to how they could better deal with a cultural and linguistic environment they perceived as alien to the Mainland,[116] where Italian had long been the official language, can be deduced from the study Memoria dei mezzi che si propongono per introdurre l'uso della lingua italiana in questo Regno ("Account of the proposed ways to introduce the Italian language to this Kingdom") commissioned in 1726 by the Piedmontese administration, to which the Jesuit Antonio Falletti from Barolo responded suggesting the ignotam linguam per notam expōnĕre ("to introduce an unknown language [Italian] through a known one [Spanish]") method as the best course of action for Italianization.[117]

However, the Savoyard government eventually decided to directly impose Italian on Sardinia in July 1760,[118][119][120][121] because of the geopolitical need to draw the island away from the Spanish influence and align Sardinia with the Italian Piedmont,[122][123][124] rather than just because of Italian nationalism, which would be later pursued by the King Charles Albert.[125][126] In 1764, the order was extended to all sectors of public life.[127][128] Spanish was thus replaced as the official language (even though it continued to be used in the parish registers and official deeds until 1828[129]) and Sardinian was again marginalized, making way for the Italianization of the island.[130][131][128][19] For the first time, in fact, even the wealthy and most powerful families of rural Sardinia, the printzipales, started to perceive Sardinian as a handicap.[127]

At the end of the XVIIIth century, following the trail of the French revolution, a group of the Sardinian middle class planned to break away from the mainland ruling class and institute an independent Sardinian Republic under French protection; all over the island, a number of political pamphlets printed in Sardinian were illegally distributed, calling for a mass revolt against the Piedmontese rule and the barons' abuse. The most famous literary product born out of such political unrest was the poem Su patriottu sardu a sos feudatarios, noted as a testament of the French-inspired democratic and patriotic values, as well as Sardinia's situation under feudalism.[132][133]

The first systematic study on the Sardinian language was written in 1782 by the philologist Matteo Madau, with the title of Il ripulimento della lingua sarda lavorato sopra la sua antologia colle due matrici lingue, la greca e la latina.[134] The patriotic intention that motivated Madau was to trace the ideal path through which Sardinian could grow to be the island's proper national language;[135][136][137][138] nevertheless, the Savoyard climate of repression on Sardinian culture would induce Matteo Madau to veil its radical proposals with some literary devices, and the author was eventually unable to ever translate them into reality.[139] The first volume of comparative Sardinian dialectology was produced in 1786 by the Catalan Jesuit Andres Febres, known in Italy and Sardinia by the pseudonym of Bonifacio d'Olmi , who returned from Lima where he had first published a book of Mapuche grammar in 1764.[140] After he moved to Cagliari, he became fascinated with the Sardinian language as well and conducted some research on three specific dialects; the aim of his work, entitled Prima grammatica de' tre dialetti sardi,[141] was to <<write down the rules of the Sardinian language>> and spur the Sardinians to <<cherish the language of their Homeland, as well as Italian>>. The government in Turin, which had been monitoring Febres' activity, decided that his work would not be allowed to be published: Victor Amadeus III had supposedly not appreciated the fact that the book had a bilingual dedication to him in Italian and Sardinian, a mistake that his successors, while still echoing back to a general concept of "Sardinian ancestral homeland", would from then on avoid, and making exclusive use of Italian to produce their works.[139] In the climate of monarchic restoration that followed Angioy's failed revolution, other Sardinian intellectuals, all characterized by an attitude of general devotion to their island as well as proven loyalty to the House of Savoy, posed in fact the "question of the Sardinian language", while being careful enough to use only Italian as a language to get their point across. A few years after the major anti-Piedmontese revolt, in 1811, the priest Vincenzo Raimondo Porru published a timid essay of Sardinian grammar, which, however, referred expressively to the southern dialect (hence the title of Saggio di grammatica del dialetto sardo meridionale[142]) and, out of prudence towards the king, was made with the declared intention of easing the acquisition of Italian among his fellow Sardinians, instead of protecting their language.[143] The more ambitious work of the professor and senator Giovanni Spano, the Ortographia sarda nationale ("Sardinian National Orthography"),[144] although it was officially meant for the same purpose as Porru's,[note 14] attempted in reality to establish a unified Sardinian orthography based on Logudorese, just like Florentine had become the basis for Italian.[145][146]

In contrast to the Mainland's cultural dynamics established between Italian and the various Romance dialects, in Sardinia the relationship between the Italian language - recently introduced by Savoy - and the native one had been perceived from the start by the locals, educated and uneducated alike, as a relationship (albeit unequal in terms of political power and prestige) between two very different languages, and not between a language and one of its dialects.[147] The plurisecular Iberian period also contributed in making the Sardinians feel relatively detached from the Italian language and its cultural sphere, and the Spanish themselves, comprising both the Aragonese and Castilian ruling class, had already considered Sardinian a distinct language with respect to their own ones and Italian as well.[147]

The jurist Carlo Baudi di Vesme claimed that the suppression of Sardinian and the imposition of Italian was desirable in order to make the islanders "civilized Italians".[note 15] The primary and tertiary education was thus offered exclusively through Italian, importing teachers from the Mainland to make up for the lack of Italian-speaking Sardinians,[148] and Piedmontese cartographers replaced many Sardinian place names with Italian ones.[128] The Italian education, being imparted in a language the Sardinians were not familiar with,[note 16] spread Italian for the first time in history to Sardinian villages, marking the troubled transition to the new dominant language; the school environment, which employed Italian as the sole means of communication, grew to become a microcosm around the then-monolingual Sardinian villages.[note 17] In 1811, the canon Salvatore Carboni published in Bologna the polemic book Sos discursos sacros in limba sarda ("Holy Discourses in Sardinian language"), wherein the author lamented over the fact that Sardinia, "hoe provinzia italiana non podet tenner sas lezzes e sos attos pubblicos in sa propia limba" ("Being an Italian province nowadays, [Sardinia] cannot have laws and public acts made in its own language"), and while claiming that "sa limba sarda, totu chi non uffiziale, durat in su Populu Sardu cantu durat sa Sardigna" ("the Sardinian language, however unofficial, will last as long as Sardinia among the Sardinians"), he also asked himself "Proite mai nos hamus a dispreziare cun d'unu totale abbandonu sa limba sarda, antiga et nobile cantu s'italiana, sa franzesa et s'ispagnola?" ("Why should we show neglect and contempt for Sardinian, which is a language as ancient and noble as Italian, French and Spanish?").[149][150] Eventually, Sardinian came to be perceived as sa limba de su famine / sa lingua de su famini, literally translating into English as "the language of hunger" (i.e. the language of the poor), and Sardinian parents strongly supported the teaching of the new tongue to their children, since they saw it as the portal to escaping from a poverty-stricken, rural, isolated and underprivileged life.

In 1827, the historical legal code of Sardinia or <<consuetud de la nació sardesca>>, the Carta de Logu, was definitely abolished and replaced by the more advanced Savoyard code of Charles Felix "Leggi civili e criminali del Regno di Sardegna", written in Italian.[151][152] Despite the assimilation policy and the subsequent loss of the island's residual autonomy through the Perfect Fusion and the unification of the Italian peninsula,[153][151] the anthem of the Savoyard Kingdom of Sardinia would still be S'hymnu sardu nationale ("the Sardinian National Anthem"), also known as Cunservet Deus su Re ("God save the King"), before it was de facto replaced by the Italian Marcia Reale as well, in 1861.[154] However, even when the island became part of the Kingdom of Italy under Victor Emmanuel II in 1861, Sardinia's distinct culture from the now unified Mainland made it an overall neglected province within the newly proclaimed unitary nation state.[155]

During the mobilization for World War I, the Italian Army compelled all Sardinians to enlist as Italian subjects and established the Sassari Infantry Brigade on 1 March 1915 at Tempio Pausania and Sinnai. Unlike the other infantry brigades of Italy, Sassari's conscripts were only Sardinians (including many officers). It is currently the only unit in Italy with an anthem in a language other than Italian: Dimonios ("Devils"), written in 1994 by Luciano Sechi. Its title derives from Rote Teufel (German for "red devils"). However, compulsory military service played a role in language shift.

Eventually, under Fascism, the Italian authorities had Sardinia align with the “national system”,[156] by means of cultural assimilation via the combined role of the school and the party system and repression of the local cultural expressions, including Sardinia's mask festivals[157] and improvised poetry competitions,[158][159][160][161][162][163] and a large number of Sardinian surnames were changed to sound more Italian. Following an argument between the Sardinian poet Antioco Casula (also known as Montanaru) and the fascist journalist Gino Anchisi, who stated that <<once the region is moribund or dead, so will the dialect (sic)>>, the latter managed to have Sardinian banned from the printing press, as well.[164][165] Another famed poet from the island, Salvatore (Bore) Poddighe, fell into a severe depression and took his own life a few years after his masterwork (Sa Mundana Cummedia[166]) had been seized by Cagliari's police commissioner.[167] When the use of Sardinian in school was banned in 1934 as part of a nation-wide educational plan against the alloglot "dialects", the then Sardinian-speaking children were confronted with another means of communication that was supposed to be their own from then onwards.[168] On a whole, this period saw the most aggressive cultural assimilation effort by the central government,[169][19] which led to an even further sociolinguistic degradation of Sardinian.[170] However, the Sardinian Anthem of the once Piedmontese Kingdom was a chance to use a regional language without penalty: as a royal tradition, it could not be forbidden.

Present situation[edit] Edit

See also: Italian Republic and Sardinian autonomy and Language shift

A bilingual sign in Villasor's town hall.

After World War II, awareness around the Sardinian language and the danger of its slipping away did not seem to concern the Sardinian elites and entered the political spaces much later than in other European peripheries marked by the long-standing presence of ethno-linguistic minorities;[171] Sardinian was in fact dismissed by the already Italianized middle class,[170] as both the Sardinian language and culture were still being held responsible for the island's underdevelopment.[153] The Sardinian ruling class, susceptible to the Italian modernist discourse on Sardinia's desired path to development, believed in fact that the latter had been held back by the islanders' traditional practices, and that social and cultural progress could only be brought about through their rejection.[172] At the time of drafting of the statute in 1948, the legislator eventually decided to specify the "Sardinian specialty" as a single criterion for political autonomy just on the grounds of a couple of socio-economic issues devoid of considerations of a distinct cultural, historical and geographical identity,[173][174][175][176] that were on the contrary looked down upon as a potential prelude to more autonomist or separatist claims.[177] Eventually, the special statute of 1948 did not recognize any special geographical conditions about the region nor made any mention of a distinct cultural and linguistic element,[178] preferring instead to concentrate on state-funded plans (baptised with the Italian name of piani di rinascita) for the heavy industrial development of the island, as well as the military installations.[179] In the meantime, the emphasis on Italian-only assimilation policies continued, with historical sites and ordinary objects renamed in Italian (e.g. the various kinds of cheese, zippole instead of tzipulascarta da musica instead of carasauformaggelle instead of pardulas/casadinas, etc.).[19][180] The Ministry of Public Education reportedly requested that the teachers willing to teach Sardinian be put under surveillance.[181] The rejection of the indigenous language, along with a rigid model of Italian-language education,[182] corporal punishment and shaming,[note 18] led to poor schooling for Sardinians.[183][184]

There have been many campaigns, often expressed in the form of political demands from the late '60s onwards,[185][186] to give Sardinian equal status with Italian as a means to promote cultural identity.[187] One of the first demands was formulated in a resolution adopted by the University of Cagliari in 1971, calling upon the national and regional authorities to recognize the Sardinians as an ethno-linguistic minority and Sardinian as the island's co-official language.[note 19] Critical acclaim in Sardinian cultural circles followed the patriotic poem No sias isciau[note 20] ("Don't be a slave") by Raimondo (Remundu) Piras some months before his death in 1977, urging bilingual education to reverse the trend of deSardization.[161] Following tensions and claims of the Sardinian nationalist movement for concrete cultural and political autonomy, including the recognition of the Sardinians as an ethnic and linguistic minority, three separate bills were presented to the Regional Council in the '80s.[39] A survey conducted by MAKNO in 1984 showed that three-fourth of the Sardinians had a positive attitude towards bilingual education (22% of the interviewees, especially in the Province of Nuoro and Oristano, wanted Sardinian to be compulsory in Sardinian schools, while 54.7% would prefer to see teaching in Sardinian as optional) and official bilingualism like in the Aosta Valley and South Tyrol (62,7% of the population were in favour, 25,9% said no and 11,4% were unsure).[188] Such consensus remains relatively stable to this day; another survey, conducted in 2008, reported that more than half of the interviewees, 57.3%, were in favour of the introduction of Sardinian into schools alongside Italian.[189] Nonetheless, it was in the late 70s that a significant shift to Italian had begun to be noted not only in the Campidanian plains, but even in some inner areas that were previously considered Sardinian-speaking bastions, manifesting a parallel shift of the values upon which the ethnic and cultural identity of the Sardinians was traditionally grounded.[190]

Bilingual No-smoking sign in Sardinian and Italian

In the 1990s, there had been a resurgence of Sardinian-language music, ranging from the more traditional genres (cantu a tenorecantu a chiterragosos etc.) to rock (Kenze NekeAskraTzokuTazenda etc.) and even hip hop and rap (Dr. Drer e CRC PosseQuiloSa RazzaMalamSu AkruMenhirStranos ElementosMalos CantoresRandagiu SarduFutta etc.), and with artists who used the language as a means to promote the island and address its long-standing issues and the new challenges.[191][192][193][194] A few films (like Su ReBellas MariposasTreulababbuSonetaula etc.) have also been dubbed in Sardinian,[195] and some others (like Metropolis) were provided with subtitles in the language.[196] The first scientific work in Sardinian (Sa chistione mundiali de s'Energhia), delving into the question of modern energy supplies, was written by Paolo Giuseppe Mura, Physics Professor at the University of Cagliari, in 1995.[197]

One of the first laws approved by the Sardinian legislator with respect to the protection and promotion of the Sardinian language and culture was soon rejected by the Constitutional Court in 1993;[198] it was not until 1997 that Sardinian was finally recognized by the regional law (n. 26 of 15 October 1997 "Promotion and enhancement of the culture and language of Sardinia") without there being any recourse from the Italian central government.[2] Eventually, sustained activism made possible the formal recognition of twelve minority languages (Sardinian, Albanian, Catalan, German, Greek, Slovenian, Croatian, French, Franco-Provençal, Friulian, Ladin and Occitan) in the late 1990s by the framework law no. 482/1999,[199] following Art. 6 of the Italian Constitution. While the first section of said law states that Italian is the official language of the Republic, a number of provisions are included in order to normalize the use of such languages and let them become part of the national fabric.[200] However, Italy (along with France and Malta[201]) has signed but never ratified the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages.[202]

Furthermore, many people in Italy outside of Sardinia continue to regard Sardinian as an "Italian dialect",[203] likewise many school and university books in Italy have not stopped to group the language under linguistica italiana (Italian linguistics), dialetti italiani (Italian dialects) or dialettologia italiana (Italian dialectology).[204] Sardinian is yet to be taught at school, with the exception of a few experimental occasions; furthermore, its use has not ceased to be disincentivized as antiquated or even indicative of a lack of education,[205][206] leading many locals to associate it with negative feelings of shame, backwardness, and provincialism.[207]

Bilingual Italian–Sardinian road sign in Siniscola

A number of other factors like a considerable immigration flow from mainland Italy, the interior rural exodus to urban areas, where Sardinian is spoken by a much lower percentage of the population,[note 21] and the use of Italian as a prerequisite for jobs and social advancement actually hinder any policy set up to promote the language.[25][208][209] Therefore, following the model proposed by a UNESCO panel of experts in 2003, Sardinian is classified by UNESCO as a "definitely endangered" language ("children no longer learn the language as mother tongue in the home"),[210] on the way to become "severely endangered" ("the language is used mostly by the grandparental generation and up")

Language use is far from stable;[39] following the Expanded GIDS (Expanded Graded Intergenerational Disruption Scale) model, Sardinian would position between 7 ("Shifting: the child-bearing generation knows the language well enough to use it among themselves but none are transmitting it to their children"[211]) and 8a ("Moribund: the only remaining active speakers of the language are members of the grandparent generation"[211]). While an estimated 68 percent of the islanders had in fact a good oral command of Sardinian, language ability among the children plummeted to less than 13 percent;[25][22][23][212] some linguists, like Mauro Maxia, cite the low number of Sardinian-speaking children as indicative of language decline, calling Sardinia "a case of linguistic suicide".[24] According to the data published by ISTAT in 2006,[213] 52.5% of the population in Sardinia speaks just Italian in the family environment, while 29.3% alternates Italian and Sardinian and only 16.6% uses Sardinian or other non-Italian languages; outside the social circle of family and friends, the numbers define Italian as the prevalent language (77,1%), while the usage of Sardinian and other languages drops to 5,2%. Today, most people who use Sardinian as part of day-to-day life reside mainly in the sparsely populated areas in the countryside, like the mountainous region of Barbagia.[214][215]

A bill proposed by former prime minister Mario Monti's cabinet would have lowered further Sardinian's protection level,[216] distinguishing between languages protected by international agreements (German, Slovenian, French and Ladin) and the recognized indigenous languages which are not spoken in any state other than Italy (all the other eight ethno-linguistic groups, including Sardinian). This bill, which was eventually implemented[217] but later deemed unconstitutional by the Court,[218] triggered a reaction on the island.[219][220][221][222] Students expressed an interest in taking all (or part) of their exit examinations in Sardinian.[223][224][225][226][227][228][229][230][231][232][233] In response to a 2013 Italian initiative to remove bilingual signs on the island, a group of Sardinians began a virtual campaign on Google Maps to replace Italian place names with the original Sardinian names. After about one month, Google changed the place names back to Italian.[234][235][236]

Church of the Pater Noster (Jerusalem, Israel), Lord's Prayer plaque in Sardinian

After a signature campaign,[237] it has been made possible to change the language setting on Facebook from any language to Sardinian.[238][239][240][241] It is also possible to switch to Sardinian even in Telegram[242][243] and a couple of other apps, like Vivaldi, F-Droid, Diaspora, OsmAnd, Notepad++, Swiftkey, Stellarium,[244] Skype,[245] VLC media player for Android, Linux Mint Debina Edition 2 "Betsy", etc. In 2016, the first automatic translation software from Italian to Sardinian was developed.[246] In 2015, all the political parties in the Sardinian regional council had reached an agreement involving a series of amendments to the old 1997 law in order to be able to introduce the optional teaching of the language in Sardinia's schools.[247][248][249] The Unified Text on the Discipline of the Regional linguistic policy[3] had been eventually approved in June 27, 2018, with the aim of setting in motion a path towards bilingual administration, contributions to bilingual mass media, publishing, IT schools and websites; it also allowed for the foundation of a Sardinian board (Consulta de su Sardu) with thirty experts that would propose a linguistic standard based on the main historical varieties, and would also have advisory duties towards the Regional body.[250][251] Although there is still not an option to teach Sardinian on the island itself, let alone in Italy, some language courses are instead sometimes available in Germany (Universities of Stuttgart, Munich, Tübingen, Mannheim[252] etc.), Spain (University of Girona),[253] Iceland[254] and Czech Republic (Brno university).[255][256] Shigeaki Sugeta also taught Sardinian to his students of Romance languages at the Waseda University in Tokyo, Japan.[257][258][259][260]

The Sardinian-speaking community among the other minority language groups officially recognized by Italy.[261]

At present, the Sardinian-speaking community is the least protected one in Italy, despite being the largest minority language group officially recognized by the state.[40][17] In fact the language, which is receding in all domains of use, is still not given access to any field of public life,[25] such as education (Italian–Sardinian bilingualism is still frowned upon,[24][225][262][263] while the local universities do not play pretty much any role whatsoever in supporting the language[264][265][266]), politics (with the exception of some nationalist groups[267]), justice, administrative authorities and public services, media,[268][269][270] and cultural,[271] ecclesiastical,[272][273] economic and social activities, as well as facilities. According to a 2017 report on the digital language diversity in Europe, Sardinian appears to be particularly vital on social media as part of many people's everyday life for private use, but such vitality does not still translate into a strong and wide availability of Internet media for the language.[274] In 2017, a 60-hour Sardinian language course has been introduced for the first time in Sardinia and Italy at the University of Cagliari, although such a course was already available in other universities abroad.[275]

In 2015, the Council of Europe commented on the status of national minorities in Italy, noting the à la carte approach of the Italian state towards them with the exception of the German, French and Slovenian languages, where Italy has applied full bilingualism due to international agreements. Despite the formal recognition from the Italian state, Italy does not in fact collect any information on the ethnic and linguistic composition of the population, apart from South Tyrol.[276] There is also virtually no print and broadcasting media exposure in politically or numerically weaker minorites like Sardinian. Moreover, the resources allocated to cultural projects like bilingual education, which lacks a consistent approach and offers no guarantee of continuity throughout the years,[277] are largely insufficient to meet "even the most basic expectations".[278][279][280][281][282]

Bilingual road signs in Pula.

A solution to the Sardinian question being unlikely to be found anytime soon,[39] the language has become highly endangered:[264] even though the endogamy rate among group members seems to be very high,[25] the late recognition as a minority language, as well as the gradual but pervasive Italianization promoted by the education system, the administration system and the media, followed by the intergenerational language replacement, made it so that Sardinian's vitality has been heavily compromised.[283] The Euromosaic project, which has conducted a research study on the current situation of the ethno-linguitic minorities across Europe under the auspices of the European Commission, concludes their report on Sardinian as follows:

With cultural assimilation having already occurred, most of the younger generation, although they do understand some basic Sardinian, is now in fact Italian monolingual and monocultural, being able to speak not Sardinian, but a Sardinian-influenced variety of Italian[284][39][285][286], which is often nicknamed italiànu porcheddìnu (literally "swinish Italian") by native Sardinian speakers.[287]

Whatever the fate of the Sardinian language might be, it shall therefore constitute the substratum of the one prevailing now, Italian, in a number of linguistic components specific to the island.

Phonology[edit] Edit

All dialects of Sardinian have phonetic features that are relatively archaic compared to other Romance languages. The degree of archaism varies, with the dialect spoken in the Province of Nuoro being considered the most conservative. Medieval evidence indicates that the language spoken in Sardinia and Corsica at the time was similar to modern Nuorese Sardinian; while Corsica underwent a process of Tuscanization that rendered the Corsican dialects akin to Tuscan, the Sardinian dialects are thought to have slowly evolved through some Catalan, Spanish and later Italian influences.

The examples listed below are from the Logudorese dialect:

  • Latin vowels lost length contrast, but have all preserved their original sound; in particular, short /i/ and /u/, which did not change in Sardinian, became instead /e/ and /o/, respectively, in Italian, Spanish and Portuguese, where Latin contrastive length resulted in contrastive quality (for example, siccus > sicu "dry"; Italian secco, Spanish and Portuguese seco).
  • Preservation of the plosive sounds /k/ and /ɡ/ before front vowels /e/ and /i/ in many words; for example, centum > kentu "hundred"; decem > dèke "ten" and gener > ghèneru "son-in-law" (Italian centodiecigenero with /tʃ/ and /dʒ/).
  • Absence of diphthongizations found in other Romance languages; for example, potest > podest "(s)he can" (Italian può, Spanish puede, Romanian poate); bonus > bónu "good" (Italian buono, Spanish bueno).

Sardinian contains the following phonetic innovations:

  • Change of the Latin -ll- into a retroflex [ɖɖ], shared with Sicilian and Southern Corsican; for example, corallus > coraddu "coral" and villa > bidda "village, town".
  • Similar changes in the consonant clusters -ld- and -nd-solidus > [ˈsoɖɖu] "money", abundantia > [abbuɳˈɖantsi.a] "abundance".
  • Evolution of -pl--fl- and -cl- into -pr--fr-, as in Portuguese and Galician, and -cr-; for example, platea > pratza "public square" (Portuguese praça, Galician praza; but Italian piazza), fluxus > frúsciu "flabby" (Portuguese and Galician frouxo) and ecclesia > cresia "church" (Portuguese igreja, Galician igrexa; but Italian chiesa).
  • Metathesis such as abbratzare > abbaltzare "to hug, to embrace".
  • Vowel prothesis before an initial r in Campidanese, similar to Basque and Gascon: rēx > (g)urrèi/re "king"; rota > arroda "wheel" (Gascon arròda); rīvus > Sardinian and Gascon arríu "river".
  • Vowel prothesis in Logudorese before an initial s followed by consonant, as in the Western Romance languages: scrīptum > iscrítu "written" (Spanish escrito, French écrit), stēlla > isteddu "star" (Spanish estrella, French étoile)
  • Except for the Nuorese dialect, intervocalic Latin single voiceless plosives /p/, /t/, /k/ became voiced approximant consonants. Single voiced plosives /b/, /d/, /ɡ/ were lost: caritātem (acc.) > caridàde [kaɾiˈðaðe]/[kaɾiˈdade] (Italian carità), locus > lógu [ˈloɣu]/[ˈloɡu] (Italian luogo). This also applies across word boundaries: porcu "pig", but su borcu "the pig"; tempus [ˈtempuzu] "time", but su tempus [su ˈðempuzu] "the time"; domu "house", but sa ’omu "the house". Such sound changes have become grammaticalised, making Sardinian an initial mutating language with similarities in this to the Insular Celtic languages.

Although the latter two features were acquired during Spanish rule, the others indicate a deeper relationship between ancient Sardinia and the Iberian world; the retroflex dl and r are found in southern Italy, Tuscany and Asturias, and were probably involved in the palatalization process of the Latin clusters -ll--pl--cl- (-ll-- > Spanish and Catalan -ll- /ʎ/, Gascon -th- /c/; -cl- > Galician-Portuguese -ch- /tʃ/, Italian -chi- /kj/), which as seen above had a different development in Sardinian.

Vowels[edit] Edit

Vowels are /a/, /e/, /i/, /o/ and /u/, without length differentiation. Metaphony occurs with /e/ and /o/, which in particular tend to be open-mid [ɛ] and [ɔ] when they are stressed and the following syllable does not contain /i/ or u or a palatal.

Front Central Back
Close i u
Close-mid e o
Open-mid ɛ ɔ
Open a

The two extra vowels [ɛ, ɔ] occur within dialectal variation.

There are also nasal vowels [ã], [ẽ], [ĩ], [õ], [ũ] in some varieties, and even nasal diphthongs when an intervocalic n is deleted like in beni [bẽj̃~bẽĩ].

Consonants[edit] Edit

Sardinian has the following consonants:[289][290]

Bilabial Labio-


Dental Alveolar Post-


Retroflex Palatal Velar
Nasal m n (ɳ) ɲ (ŋ)
Plosive p b t d ɖ k ɡ
Affricate ts dz tʃ dʒ
Fricative (β) f v θ (ð) s z ʃ ʒ (ɣ)
Tap (ɾ)
Trill r
Lateral l
Approximant (w) j

There are three series of plosives or corresponding approximants:

  • Voiceless stops derive from their Latin counterparts in composition after another stop. They are reinforced (double) in initial position, but this reinforcement is not written because it does not produce a different phoneme.
  • Double voiced stops (after another consonant) derive from their Latin equivalents in composition after another stop.
  • Weak voiced "stops" (actually approximants), sometimes transcribed ⟨β δ ğ⟩ (/β ð ɣ/ after vowels, as in Spanish), derive from single Latin stops (voiced or voiceless).

In Cagliari and neighboring dialects, the soft /d/ has become [ɾ] due to rhotacism: digitus > didu/diru "finger".

The double-voiced retroflex stop /ɖɖ/ (usually written -dd-) derives from the former retroflex lateral approximant /ɭɭ/.

Fricatives[edit] Edit

  • The labiodentals /f/ (sometimes pronounced [ff] or [v] in initial position) and /v/.
    • Latin initial v becomes b (vipera > bíbera "viper").
      • In central Sardinia the sound /f/ disappears, akin to the /f/ > /h/ change in Gascon and Old Spanish.
  • [θ], written -th- (as in the English thing), is a restricted dialectal variety of the phoneme /ts/.
  • /s/
  • /ss/, from assimilation; for example, ipsa > íssa.
  • /ʃ/, pronounced [ʃ] at the beginning of a word, otherwise [ʃʃ], is written -sc(i/e)-; its voiced equivalent, /ʒ/, is often spelled with the letter x.

Affricates[edit] Edit

  • /ts/ (or [tts]), a denti-alveolar affricate consonant written -tz-, corresponds to Italian -z- or -ci-.
  • /dz/ (or [ddz]), written -z-, corresponds to Italian -gi-- or -ggi-.
  • /tʃ/ is written -c(i/e)- or -ç- (also ts in loanwords).
  • /ttʃ/
  • /dʒ/ is written -g(e/i)- or -j-.

Nasals[edit] Edit

  • /m/, /mm/
  • /n/, /nn/
  • /ɲɲ/, written -gn-[291] or -nny-/-nni-[292] (the palatal nasal for some speakers or dialects, although for most the pronunciation is [nːj]).[citation needed]

Liquids[edit] Edit

  • /l/ is double [ll] initially.
  • /r/ is written r.

Some permutations of l and r are seen: in most dialects a preconsonantal l (for example, -lt- or -lc-) becomes r: Latin altum > artu "high/tall", marralzu/marrarzu "rock".

In palatal context, Latin l changed into [dz], [ts], [ldz], [ll] or [dʒ], rather than the /ʎ/ of Italian: achizare (Italian accigliare), *volia > bòlla/bòlza/bòza "wish, longing" (Italian voglia), folia > fogia/folla/foza "leaf" (Italian foglia), fīlia > filla/fidza/fiza "daughter" (Italian figlia).

Grammar[edit] Edit

Some distinctive features typical of Sardinian are:

  • The plural marker is -s (from the Latin accusative plural), as in Western Romance languages like French, Occitan, Catalan, Spanish, Portuguese and Galician: sardusardus "Sardinian"; puddapuddas "hen"; margianemargianes "fox". In Italo-Dalmatian languages like Italian, or Eastern Romance languages like Romanian, the plural ends with -i-e or -a.
  • The definite article derives from the Latin ipsesu, sa, plural sos, sas (Logudorese) and is (Campidanese). At present, such articles are only common in Balearic Catalan and were once used in Gascon as well, whilst all the other Romance languages make use of forms derived from ille.
  • A periphrastic construction of "have to" (late Latin habere ad) is used for the future: ap'a istàre < apo a istàre "I will stay", Vulgar Latin 'habeo ad stare' (as in the Portuguese hei de estar, but here as periphrasis for estarei). All the other Romance languages have realisations of the alternative Vulgar Latin 'stare habeo', Italian "starò", Portuguese "estarei".
  • For prohibitions, a negative form of the subjunctive is used: no bengias!, "don't come!" (compare Spanish no vengas and Portuguese não venhas, classified as part of the affirmative imperative mood). Italian uses the infinitive (non venire) instead.
  • A common occurrence of a left-dislocated construction: cussa cantone apo cantadu ("That song I have sung": that is, "I've sung that song").
    • In yes/no questions, fronting of a constituent (especially a predicative element) is required, though it is not specifically a question-formation process: Cumprendiu m'as? ("Understood me you have", that is, "Have you understood me?"), Mandicatu at? ("Eaten he/she has", that is "Has he/she eaten?"), Fattu l'at ("Done he/she has", that is "He/She's done it"), etc.
  • Interrogative phrases might be constructed like echo questions, with the interrogative marker remaining in underlying position: Sunt lòmpios cando? ("They arrived when?", that is, "when did they arrive?"), Juanne at pigadu olìas cun chie? ("John has picked olives with whom?"), etc.
  • Impersonal sentence constructions are commonly used to replace the passive voice, which is limited to the formal register: A Juanni ddu ant mortu rather than Juanni est istadu mortu.
  • The use of non de + noun: non de abba, abbardente est ("not of water brandy it+is": that is, "It is not water, but brandy."); non de frades, parent inimigos ("Not of brothers, they seem enemies": that is, "Far from being brothers, they are like enemies").
  • The use of ca (from quia) or ki as subordinate conjunctions: Ja nau ti l'apo ca est issa sa mere ("Already told I have you that is she the boss", that is "I've already told you that it's her the boss").
  • Existential uses of àer / ài ("to have") and èsser / èssi ("to be"): B'at prus de chentu persones inoghe! ("There is over a hundred people in here!"), Nci funt is pratus in mesa ("There are the plates on the table").
  • Ite ("What") + adjective + chiIte bellu chi ses! ("You are so beautiful!").
  • Nominal syntagmas without having a head: Cussu ditzionariu de gregu est prus mannu de su de Efis ("That Greek dictionary is bigger than Efisio's"), Cudda machina est prus manna de sa de Juanne ("That car is bigger than John's").
  • Extraposition of the lexical head: Imprestami su tou de ditzionariu ("Please lend me your dictionary").
  • Ancu + subjunctive as a way to express a (malevolent) wish on someone: Ancu ti falet unu lampu! ("May you be struck by lightning!").
  • Prepositional accusative: Apo bidu a Maria ("I've seen Mary").
  • Insertion of the affermative particle ja / giaiJa m'apo corcau ("I did go to bed").
    • Use of the same particle to express antiphrastic formulas: Jai ses totu istudiatu, tue! ("You're so well educated!", that is, "You are so ignorant and full of yourself!").
  • Reflexive use of intransitive verbs: Tziu Pascale si nch'est mortu[293] eris sero ("Uncle Pascal passed away yesterday"), Mi nch'apo dormiu pro una parica de oras ("I've slept for a couple of hours").
  • Use of àer in reflexive sentences: Si at fertu a s'anca traballende ("He/She injured himself/herself while working").
  • Combination of the perfective and progressive verb aspect: Est istadu traballende totu sa die" ("He/She has been working all day").
  • Progressive aspect of the verb, which is meant to indicate an effective situation rather than typical or habitual: Non ti so cumprendende ("I don't understand you").
  • Relative lack of adverbs: with the exception of some localized words like the Nuorese mescamente ("especially"), as well as some recent Italian loanwords, all the Sardinian dialects have a number of ways with which to express the meaning conferred to the adverbs by the other Romance languages (e.g. Luchía currit prus a lestru / acoitendi de María, "Lucy runs faster than Mary").

Vocabulary[edit] Edit

English Sardinian Latin Corsican Italian Spanish Catalan French Portuguese Romanian
key crae/-i clave(m) chjave/chjavi chiave llave clau clé chave cheie
night note/-i nocte(m) notte/notti notte noche nit nuit noite noapte
to sing cantare/-ai cantare cantà cantare cantar cantar chanter cantar cânta
goat cabra/craba capra(m) capra capra cabra cabra chèvre cabra capră
language limba/lìngua lingua(m) lingua/linga lingua lengua llengua langue língua limbă
square (plaza) pratza platea(m) piazza piazza plaza plaça place praça piață
bridge ponte/-i ponte(m) ponte/ponti ponte puente pont pont ponte pod (punte)
church crèsia/eccresia ecclesia(m) ghjesgia chiesa iglesia església église igreja biserică
hospital ispidale/spidali hospitale(m) spedale/uspidali ospedale hospital hospital hôpital hospital spital
cheese casu caseu(m)

Vulgar Latin:formaticu(m)

casgiu formaggio/cacio queso formatge fromage queijo brânză/caș

Varieties[edit] Edit

See also: Logudorese dialect and Campidanese dialect

Corso-Sardinian (orange and yellow) with respect to Sardinian proper (green).

Historically, the Sardinians have always been quite a small population scattered across isolated cantons, sharing similar demographic patterns with Corsica; as a result, Sardinian developed a broad spectrum of dialects over the time. Starting from Francesco Cetti's description in the 18th century,[294][295] Sardinian has been presented as a pluricentric language, being traditionally subdivided into two varieties spoken by roughly half of the entire community: the dialects spoken in North-Central Sardinia, centered on the orthography known as Logudorese (su sardu logudoresu), and the dialects spoken in Central Southern Sardinia, centered on another orthography called Campidanese (su sardu campidanesu). All the Sardinian dialects differ primarily in phonetics, which does not hamper intelligibility;[296][297][298] the view of there being a dialectal boundary separating the Campidanese and Logudorese varieties has been in fact subjected to more recent research, that shows a fluid linguistic continuum from the Northern to the Southern ends of the island.[299][300][301][302] The dualist perception of the Sardinian dialects, rather than pointing to an actual isogloss, is in fact the result of a psychological adherence to the way Sardinia was administratively subvidided into a Caput Logudori (Cabu de Susu) and a Caput Calaris (Cabu de Jossu) by the Spanish.[303]

On the other hand, the Logudorese and Campidanese dialects[clarification needed] have been estimated in other research to have 88% of matches in 110-item wordlist, similarly to the 85-88% number of matches between Provençal Occitan and the Catalan dialects,[304] which by some standards is usually (even though arbitrarily) considered characteristic for two different, albeit very closely related, languages.[305] ISO 639 counts four Sardinian languages (Campidanese, Gallurese, Logudorese and Sassarese), each with its own language code.

The dialects centered on the Logudorese model are generally considered more conservative, with the Nuorese subdialect (su sardu nugoresu) being the most conservative of all. They have all retained the classical Latin pronunciation of the stop velars (kena versus cena, "supper"),[306] the front middle vowels (compare Campidanese iotacism, probably from Byzantine Greek)[307] and assimilation of close-mid vowels (cane versus cani, "dog" and gattos versus gattus, "cats"). Labio-velars become plain labials (limba versus lingua, "language" and abba versus acua, "water").[308] I is prosthesized before consonant clusters beginning in s (iscala versus Campidanese scala, "stairway" and iscola versus scola, "school"). An east-west strip of villages in central Sardinia speaks a transitional group of dialects (su sardu de mesania). Examples include is limbas (the languages) and is abbas (the waters). The dialects centered on the Campidanese model, spreading from Cagliari (once the metropolis of the Roman province), show relatively more influences from Carthage, Rome, Constantinople and Late Latin. Examples include is fruminis (the rivers) and is domus (the houses).

Sardinian is the indigenous and historical language of most Sardinian communities. However, Sardinian is not spoken as the native and primary language in a significant number of other ones, amounting to 20% of the Sardinian population.[40][297] The afore-mentioned Gallurese and Sassarese, despite being often colloquially considered part of Sardinian, are two Corso-Sardinian transitional languages; they are spoken in the northernmost part of Sardinia,[309][310] although some Sardinian is also understood by the majority of people living there (73,6% in Gallura and 67,8% in the Sassarese-speaking subregion). Sassari, the second-largest city on Sardinia and the main center of the northern half of the island (cabu de susu in Sardinian, capo di sopra in Italian), is located there. There are also two language islands, the Catalan Algherese-speaking community from the inner city of Alghero (northwest Sardinia) and the Ligurian-speaking towns of Carloforte, in San Pietro Island, and Calasetta in Sant'Antioco island (south-west Sardinia).[309][311]

Standardization[edit] Edit

Sardinian has already been a standardized language since the Middle Ages, even if the process led to the emergence of the above-mentioned models of Logudorese and Campidanese. However, some attempts have been made to introduce a single writing system for administrative purposes over the recent decades, but they have not been generally acknowledged by native speakers.[312][313][31]

The Regional Council Deliberations no. 52/105 of 28 December 1999 and n. 59/117 of 29 December 1998 appointed the Committee members with the goal of investigating a single orthographic form and devise a project of linguistic unification. The people appointed for the task were Eduardo Blasco Ferrer, Roberto Bolognesi, Diego Salvatore Corraine, Ignazio Delogu, Antonietta Dettori, Giulio Paulis, Massimo Pittau, Tonino Rubattu, Leonardo Sole, Heinz Jürgen Wolf, and Matteo Porru acting as the Committee's secretary. The output of the Committee was the "Limba Sarda Unificada" (LSU, "Unified Sardinian Language"). Its rules were published in 2001 by the Autonomous Region of Sardinia,[314] but were met with some criticism about their overall focus on the more conservative varieties, and was eventually not adopted by the regional Council.

The Regional Council Deliberation no. 20/15 of 9 May 2005 thus appointed a new Committee composed of Giulio Angioni, Roberto Bolognesi, Manlio Brigaglia, Michel Contini, Diego Corraine, Giovanni Lupinu, Anna Oppo, Giulio Paulis, Maria Teresa Pinna Catte and Mario Puddu. Their job involved a program of measures for the protection and promotion of the Sardinian language, by means of a guide to be used by the regional administration.[315] The Committee's output, called "Limba Sarda Comuna" (LSC, "Common Sardinian Language"), was experimentally adopted by the Sardinian regional authority with the Regional Council Deliberation no. 16/14 of 18 April 2006.[316][317] The resolution does not aim to impose the guide and further notes that it is "open to integrations" and that "all solutions are of equal linguistic value". This work does not refer to morphology and syntax, which is already fairly homogeneous,[318] and concerns itself primarily with spelling.

Sample of text[edit] Edit

English Logudorese Sardinian Campidanese Sardinian LSC (Sardinian Written Standard) Latin Italian
Our Father, who art in heaven,

hallowed be thy name. thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.

Babbu nostru chi ses in chelu,

Santificadu siat su nomine tou. Benzat a nois su rennu tou, Siat fatta sa boluntade tua, comente in chelu gai in terra. Dona nos oe su pane nostru de donzi die, Et perdona nos sos peccados nostros, Comente nois perdonamus a sos depidores nostros. Et no nos lesses ruer in tentatzione, Et libera nos dae male.

Babbu nostu chi ses in celu,

Santificau siat su nomini tuu. Bengiat a nosus su regnu tuu, Siat fatta sa boluntadi tua, comenti in celu aici in terra. Donasi oi su pani nostu de dogna dii, Et perdonasi is peccaus nostus, Comenti nosus perdonaus a is depidoris nostus. Et no si lessis arrui in tentatzioni, Et liberasi de mali.

Babbu nostru chi ses in chelu,

Santificadu siat su nòmine tuo. Bèngiat a nois su rennu tuo, Siat fata sa voluntade tua, comente in chelu gasi in terra. Dona་nos oe su pane nostru de ònnia die, E perdona་nos is pecados nostros, Comente nois perdonamus a is depidores nostros. E no nos lasses arrùere in tentatzione, E lìbera་nos de male.

Pater noster qui es in cælis,

sanctificetur nomen tuum. adveniat regnum tuum, fiat voluntas tua, sicut in cælo et in terra. Panem nostrum quotidianum da nobis hodie, et dimitte nobis debita nostra, sicut et nos dimittimus debitoribus nostris. et ne nos inducas in tentationem sed libera nos a malo.

Padre Nostro, che sei nei cieli,

Sia santificato il tuo nome. Venga il tuo regno, Sia fatta la tua volontà, Come in cielo, così in terra. Dacci oggi il nostro pane quotidiano, E rimetti a noi i nostri debiti Come noi li rimettiamo ai nostri debitori. E non ci indurre in tentazione, Ma liberaci dal male.

Community content is available under CC-BY-SA unless otherwise noted.